Cheeky, I know, using a title like this, presuming that I even come close to understanding what this city must have been like for, arguably, the most influential artist of the 20thC. One thing I do know is that he would pick up a brush, choose a colour and dab it onto the canvas without actually knowing what his subject or ultimate goal would be.
“The painting takes me where it wants to go”
With this as a starting point I wander the streets of this circa 3000 year-old city and observe. This is what I see:
It’s not just for tourists. Although tourism is way up there economically speaking, it is also well known for its construction and technology services. A campaign to promote it as a serious business city is evident in ‘Málaga: Open for Business’ with IT in the forefront. Business executives have stepped up to the plate with an initiative called ‘Málaga Valley’, a drive towards turning this city into the Silicon Valley of Europe. It has an acclaimed university and houses the biggest bank in Andalusia, Unicaja.
It’s not overrun by tourists. End of May, perfect days, perhaps not high-high season but nonetheless, Málaga is not heaving at the seams with tourists. You can go into the Picasso Museum or explore the Fort Alcazaba and there is a good chance that you might even find yourself alone at some point.
Chatter, yes, cell phones no! Plonk yourself down at a square, there are many to be found, and see the refreshing sight of young and old alike actually talking to each other and not staring into the screen of a phone. The Malagueños will explain that having fun is a real time communication thing, not swiping the faces of tinder explorers.
Smile, even when you say ‘no’. History suggests that many nations have inhabited this place from the Phoenicians, to the Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Vandals, and Moors. The Malagueños are a mixture of all of them and are truly friendly, in the friendliest sense of the word. They’re tolerant of religions of all kinds, and it’s considered one of the best gay destinations in Europe. Even when I ask whether I can just have a glass of wine at 10 pm when dining is at its height, the negative reply comes in the best possible manner. Of course, they’d rather have diners rather than just drinkers.
“No entiendo” or “no Inglés”. English is not widely spoken and even if it is, it’s a bit broken. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. They’ll do their utmost to help you whenever they can and will absolutely go out of their way to make sure you find the right road, or get the correct change from your purchase by counting out the money.
It’s a walking street city. You might get turned around, you might slip into a side street where you never intended to go but one thing’s for sure, you’ll find your way out and cars are rarely a problem. It’s as if they make way for the pedestrians not the other way round. The cool marble on the ground and the patterned tiles ease away your sore feet and divert your attention to the care with which things are done here. They could have thrown a slab of concrete but preservation is paramount and strictly maintained in the centre.
The best of many worlds
Sun seekers will find what they’re looking for on the beaches that run for kilometres along the coast. My favourite is Playa de la Caleta, a little further along from the main Malagueta but a whole lot nicer with cleaner water and less people.
Culture vultures can indulge in myriad museums, historical places, and palaces while gardeners and nature lovers can cool off in the shade and fountains of the Paseo del Parque and the Botanical Gardens.
Escape is easy. The infrastructure is good and while the buses might not always be on time, they will arrive and whip you off to exotic neighbouring towns like Nerja, where cliff-sided Burriana Beach awaits. Return bus ticket: <€10 (1 hr. 15 min one way).
Best of all, tapas, good wine and a fabulous feeling of freedom and joy abound. When the locals are happy, the tourists are too and a return visit is never far from your mind.